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Colleges and Universities Education New Castle County News

UD to require booster shots for students

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The University of Delaware announced that students will be required to get a booster shot in order to enroll for the spring semester. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEWARK – The University of Delaware announced Thursday that it will require all students to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot in order to attend classes in any capacity, including online, next spring.

The decision to mandate booster shots is a new frontier in the vaccination requirement debate that has ensnared health care providers, high education and large employers. Currently, no other company or organization has required that step in Delaware. However, many colleges and universities are beginning to roll out the mandate, including Stanford, Michigan, Syracuse, NYU, Georgetown, and many more.

Seeking to prevent future outbreaks, like those it saw early in the pandemic, UD is dictating booster shots as a way to protect against the still circulating delta variant and the new, highly contagious omicron variant. The vaccine’s effectiveness against the virus wanes with time and all adult Americans are encouraged by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to receive a booster six months after receiving their last dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two months after the Johnson & Johnson.

Evidence from clinical studies show that boosters do not merely top off immunity but elevate protection well beyond peak levels from the primary series. Some experts say the elevated levels of protection can be as high as 95%. The same study showed an 85% reduction in hospitalization, 76% reduction in severe disease, and 94% reduction in deaths in those who received a booster dose.

“We applaud the latest federal action to make all adults eligible for a booster vaccine,” Delaware Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said in a statement last month. “COVID-19 cases are again rising and having this tool in our arsenal can help us in holding off another winter surge that could come with people gathering inside more often as the weather turns colder.”

UD reported that more than 90% of its students were vaccinated at least six months ago and are now eligible for a booster dose to be fully protected before the start of the spring semester. Therefore, all eligible students without an existing COVID-19 vaccine exemption are required to receive a booster shot by Jan. 24.

The university’s fall semester ended Dec. 17 and the spring semester won’t start until Feb. 7.

Unlike the fall semester, the booster shot requirement will cover all enrolled students whether they are taking classes on campus, online, or in a blended format, because they all have access to campus facilities, officials said.

Those with approved COVID-19 vaccine exemptions will be required to resume weekly COVID-19 PCR testing.

While Delaware State University has required vaccination to attend in-person courses at its facilities, officials said Thursday that they are not currently planning on mandating booster shots. DSU also operates a weekly testing program, and it has not reportedly seen a growth in cases that would necessitate such a move.

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